Izzy Lane never thought of herself as a liar. In fact, she's always played by the rules. She's an excellent mother, has loyal friends, and a rich career as a school counselor. Fresh from a new divorce, however, Izzy feels like she needs a little fun. So when, on a whim, she starts a blog it seems like a rather benign indulgence. But as her online quips begin to gain traction, Izzy makes a slip. Somehow a new boyfriend winds his way into the picture. The problem? Izzy makes him up.
What, at first, feels like a harmless fib quickly spins out of control and Izzy must figure out how to balance fantasy and reality. Keeping up appearances while managing an absent ex-husband, two very nosy friends, a toddler son, and full-time job soon prove impossible, and Izzy feels utterly lost. It's only when her long-time neighbor and surrogate mother, Mrs. Feldman, re-enters her life that Izzy begins to see the mess she's made. And it's with Mrs. Feldman's guidance that Izzy learns to face reality, find comfort in new norms, and open herself up to the possibility of real love.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
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About the Author
Amy Sue Nathan is the author of The Good Neighbor and the founder of WomensFictionWriters.com, which was named a Best Website for Writers by Writer's Digest. Amy lives in Philadelphia and has a grown son and daughter. You can find her online, often when she shouldn't be.
Read an Excerpt
The Good Neighbor
By Amy Sue Nathan
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Amy Nathan Gropper
All rights reserved.
The Banana Song
The doorbell rang and I knew it was my ex, just like when my lip tingled and I knew it was a cold sore. Most Wednesday nights I was ready for my midweek parenting respite. Not tonight. Tonight I longed for a snafu in Bruce's plans — a flat tire, a meeting, a hangnail. So tonight he was twenty minutes early. Of course.
Even so, I sang, "Daddy's here," and scooped Noah's toys from the kitchen table, shoving them inside his Spider-Man backpack along with two dinosaur books. I tucked in Spidey briefs and a clean sweatshirt, smoothing it hard as if to mark my territory.
My stomach rumbled and I slid my hand to my belly. Hollow gurgles akin to pregnancy flutters skittered across my palm. I smiled, remembering the moment I'd felt those first movements from Noah. I loved every one of them, even as they became an elbow in my ribs or a foot on my bladder.
I gathered the last of the boystuff, combed my fingers through my hair, and opened the front door. I left the storm door closed and wrangled Noah into his coat, hat, and mittens, which he plucked off. He reached up and touched my cheeks with his still-soft hands. I crouched down so we were nose to nose. I smelled apple juice, soap, and a hint of boy.
"See ya later, alligator!" he said, accenting the last syllable.
"In a while, crocodile!"
Noah linked his arms behind my neck and I stood. His legs dangled and his chest bounced with giggles. What would it be like when he was taller than me, taller than everyone, like Bruce? I was grateful, with a mother's longing, that he still had a round, soft face and fine, almost-black hair.
I nodded at my ex. Noah pushed out the door and hugged his dad with a force that landed Bruce against the metal railing. He kissed the top of Noah's head and held him at arm's length, as though memorizing the details. Bruce loved Noah like I did. That was something I still counted on, something I was grateful for. Something I needed to remember.
"Where's Amber?" Noah asked. His r's sounded like l's.
"Amber's in the car, buddy. She can't wait to see you."
My world had seized the moment I realized I was sharing Noah with someone other than Bruce. One day I watched my small child look up at Amber and reach for her hand. He smiled at her, and her meek grin widened. Amber took his hand in hers and patted it. I was awestruck. Or maybe dumbstruck. I was not surprised Amber warmed to Noah. That part I understood. But I was surprised how easily he reached for her. He held out his hand. He trusted her. He was a little boy who needed to be safe and happy and included. Yet instead of feeling a rush of gratitude and a momentary freedom from responsibilities, I burned, singed by an unlikely betrayal. Did he call her Mommy by mistake — or worse, not by mistake? Get a grip, I'd told myself. Bruce will have many more Ambers. Then I realized, for Noah's sake, that I didn't want that either.
Noah shot imaginary webs from his palms and Bruce fell back with a flourish. He ughed and arghed and begged Spider-Man to release him, but his performance was flat. Bruce sounded constrained, without enthusiasm. This was not his best trapped-dad voice.
"If Spider-Man lets me out of this web, I'll drop him off at school in the morning."
"Okeydoke," I said, instead of No shit. Bruce had been doing Thursday-morning drop-offs since school started in September.
"Smells delicious in there, Iz. If you're making your lasagna, he must be some guy."
I closed the door and leaned my back against it. Why did Bruce mention familiar details — my hair, an old sweater, the smell of lasagna? Didn't leaving mean he could no longer lay claim to these things? It was harder to forget, harder to forgive, when he kept poking into the past and pushing it forward. I shook my head to scatter the thoughts, then scurried to the kitchen knowing "some guy" was really "the girls," and they would be on time. My veggie lasagna would not be. It was bubbling on the sides, but soft and runny in the middle.
My lasagna brought me comfort. Moving "back home" had brought me comfort, too. And a little bit of shame. You grow up, move out, go to college, work, get married. You do not move back home with your small child in tow. Unless you need to. And I had — so I did.
Though I arrived months ago, I was still making the transition from living in the house-where-I-grew-up to living in that house as the only grown-up. But I was getting there. A moment of optimism blew through me, like a sigh of relief from the universe.
Still, lasagna from scratch was ambitious on a school night. Maybe I should have nuked a pizza on one of those silver crisping trays, opened a bag of Caesar salad, and squeezed dressing from a tube. Or ordered in. Who was I kidding? I, Izzy Lane, did not order in when the girls were coming for dinner. Even on a Wednesday.
* * *
Jade and Rachel arrived at the same time. Rachel leapt to hug me before she even closed the front door. Rachel moved the way she did throughout our childhood, as if she were Tinker Bell — just now with hips that swayed from the weight of four children under seven.
Jade looked up from her phone and surveyed the scene, her arms crossed, her foot tapping.
Rachel and Jade connected only through me. Opposite in demeanor and appearance, they were my perfect fit. Rachel's bounce balanced Jade's stillness. Jade's urban vibe muted Rachel's suburban air. I was a little like each of them, except they reveled in the lives they'd built from scratch. I loved them — despite their contentment.
I went to the kitchen and returned with a bottle of wine.
"We haven't done a Wednesday dinner in ages," Jade said. "What's up?"
"Can't I just make dinner for my two best friends when Noah's with Bruce?"
"No," they said in unison.
Rachel sat on the arm of the chair I still referred to as "Dad's." She tapped her fingers in sequence, from pinkie to pointer. One two three four, one two three four, one two three four. Over and over, as if she were waiting for something — and that something wasn't wine.
"I can't stand it anymore," she said.
"When are you going to tell us?"
"Tell you what?"
Rachel exploded with the fervor of a pageant toddler on Pixy Stix. "About Mac!"
"Mac?" Jade asked.
"How do you know about Mac?" I asked, dumbfounded. And maybe even a little dumb.
"Oh, come on, Izzy. You know I've been reading your blog! And so have all the girls at mahj."
"Her blog?" This was Jade. This was Jade getting annoyed. "Why am I the last to know these things?"
"I told you about it. ..." I put my hands on my hips, a vague gesture of self-defense. "I didn't make a big deal about it, but I did tell you."
"She's right, Jade. She did. She started it the day Bruce moved out. But she calls herself Bizzy, remember?"
"That's what you did when Bruce left? Turned to your computer and made up an alias?"
"No, not exactly," I said, although — yes. Exactly. "It was just, well, I needed an outlet. Some sort of journal." And to be someone else. Someone whose world wasn't upside down and inside out. I was also someone else who didn't realize her first cousin had been taking notes.
Rachel's hands moved as if she were conducting a symphony. "When you wrote about the date where the guy squirted ketchup all over his eggs and how you had to clean off the lid of the ketchup bottle when he went to the men's room? It hit me. No one enjoys cleaning dirty ketchup lids like a Lane."
Rachel should know.
"Jade, you should see the comments! There are tons of them."
Jade perked up. Tons of comments had gotten her attention.
"She's totally an advice goddess. Izzy told one woman to stop trying to be someone she wasn't, because then the right guy wouldn't be able to find her. That's genius, right?"
It was good advice. Why was I surprised? Though I'd never thought of my master's in school counseling as a boon to my blogging escapades before, it was.
"It's true, the advice I give seems to be helpful to people. But some of the stories I've told aren't exactly ..."
"They're awesome! Tell Jade about your dates."
"Dates? You've gone on more dates? I thought you said it 'wasn't the right time.'" Jade used air quotes. Jade hated air quotes.
"When it's the right person, it's always the right time," Rachel said. "Tell Jade about Mac!"
"Who's Mac?" Now Jade crossed her arms.
No. I was not telling anyone about Mac.
"You have a boyfriend?" Jade stood and went to the closet. She took out her coat and draped it over her arm. "I worry about you every weekend when you say you're doing nothing, when you won't meet me in town, and now I find out you're really out tooling around the city with a man you're keeping a secret? Oh my God. Is he married?"
That's what she thinks of me? "I am not tooling around with anyone!"
"Okay, so you don't want to call him your boyfriend." Rachel grinned. "But you're seeing someone. Mac is amazing. From everything Izzy told me — well, she didn't tell me, really — he's smart and funny and handsome. She met him on JDate —"
"Stop!" I yelled. "He's not what you think. It's not what it seems."
Rachel put her hands over her ears. "Please! I don't want to hear it. Let your old married cousin live vicariously through you a little longer." She grabbed me again. "Nobody's perfect, you know."
Rachel was wrong. Mac was perfect. Mac was perfect because I'd invented him — all six two of him, with his full head of dark hair, his humble upbringing, his self-made career. What was his career again? Did he have one? I wasn't sure. Oops. But more important than any career was that Mac was devoted to me. Of course he was. He was my cyber version of Weird Science.
Mac had appeared just in the nick of time, on a Saturday morning in October. Amber and Bruce had shown up at Noah's soccer game in matching Temple Owls sweatshirts. Stupid matching sweatshirts. The blatant coupledom punched me in the gut. I had always wanted to be a matchy-matchy couple, but not Bruce. I had bought us matching Phillies T-shirts and caps one Hanukkah, but he refused to wear his when I wore mine. The Hanna Andersson striped pajamas I ordered for us and Noah, the ones in which I imagined we'd look like a catalog family, stayed folded and bagged. Then Noah grew, Bruce moved out, and I got a full refund.
Bruce and Amber's sweatshirts, in Temple's official cherry and white, were crisp and new, yet worn. Nonrefundable.
They sat in front of me, our usual effort to appear united. We exchanged our tactical greeting: Bruce took Noah's duffel bag; I reminded him about the cosmic bowling party that afternoon, and decorating the sukkah at the synagogue the next day.
"I know. We'll be there," Bruce said. Amber nodded. They refocused on the field and leaned into each other's shoulder.
We'll be there? Since when were they a we?
"I'll be there, too," I said. "But now I've got to go. I have plans with ..." Who on earth did I have plans with? "My boyfriend."
I could have said I had a report to finish or that I was having lunch with Rachel. I could have offered nothing more than good-bye. But I didn't because it wasn't enough. I wasn't enough. I wasn't a we. I was a me. A me, myself, and I. And I was alone, laden with inadequacy. Embarrassment filled me. The matching sweatshirts had been my tipping point and I'd invented a boyfriend. So what?
Back then, the mere façade of moving forward had left me aglow.
Tonight my cheeks burned with embarrassment.
"Well, I have to tell you, I'm relieved," Jade said.
"I thought you were going to say you were getting back together with Bruce."
I leapt toward Jade and hugged her. "Really?"
Did she know something I didn't?
"I had no idea why you invited us here. Just coming for dinner on a Wednesday seemed a little unusual, Pea, I've got to be honest." Jade threw her phone into her oversize pocketbook. She used the nickname she'd given me at Penn the day our freshman English professor anointed us two peas in a pod. "You hole up here, in this house, and never leave except for work. Yes, you take care of Noah. Yes, you go to work every day. But that's all you do. And then you invite us over on a Wednesday night when I know it's the only night you have to yourself."
All I had wanted was company for dinner, a glass of wine, a few belly laughs. "I am so sorry you're worried about me." I swallowed air. Rachel would have to live her romantic dream through someone else. "There's more."
Rachel clasped her hands. "You're in love!"
She whispered, "Pregnant?"
Keep it light. No big deal. It's all a phase. Like Pilates.
"Mac isn't exactly how he seems."
"Is anyone?" Jade asked.
In real life I hoped the answer was yes.
"Just enjoy yourself," Jade continued. "But I want to hear more about this little blog of yours, missy!" She dug out her phone, tapped, and scrolled. "There, got it! The Bizzy Blog. Very cute." She held it up, showcasing a miniature version of my make-believe life.
"It gets ... well, it got, a few thousand hits. Per day." This was true. I worked to keep my smile in check. "Apparently, I'm good at it." They were not the most important words, but hearing them aloud reminded me that the blog had served a purpose. I had created something that connected me to others. And it was mine. It belonged only to me. My thoughts and words were not like dishes or towels or dining-room chairs, or even a five-year-old boy.
No one could leave and then claim half.
Rachel and Jade stared at each other, then at me, then back at each other. I often felt them vying for top branch in my confidante tree, but now I sensed a kinship between them.
"The thing is, though — I mean, the issue is — Mac's not real." There. I said it. I stood, ready to purge my reasons for embellishing my life and manufacturing men, and more important, for not telling them any of it.
"It's fine," Jade said. "I get it."
"Mac's not his real name. And he probably doesn't know you're writing about him. Bloggers do that all the time. Change names to protect the innocent, so to speak. So you made up a name and he doesn't know you write about him. No big deal."
"What's his real name? I want to Google him! Is he really a dentist?"
How had I forgotten that Mac was a dentist?
"Look, it's okay if you don't want to tell us his name for a while," Jade said. "I don't tell you everything either, especially about the men I date. It's just — easier. I think it's normal."
If this was normal, I was in big trouble. "Wait, you don't tell me everything?"
Jade just lifted her eyebrows and smirked. "No. So I guess we're even."
"All I care about is that you're happy," Rachel said.
I wanted her to make me accountable — or to encourage me to be accountable to myself. I wanted her to challenge me, fight me, but Rachel wasn't a fighter.
"Taking care of Noah by yourself, working, dating, and then you have this blog and you meet this Mac ... it's easy to get caught up. I'm planning my reunion and I can spend hours online looking up classmates and sending e-mails. It sucks me right in. I lose all track of time. But I don't understand wanting to share your life with strangers more than with us."
It was easy to banter with strangers, sometimes more so than talking to my friends, or my brothers, or my parents. I had grown weary of my mother's rolled eyes and weak redirects when I talked about Bruce. I cringed at how some of my married friends thought it would be great to be single again. My brothers were compassionate, but wouldn't be caught dead back home. How many times could they listen to me say the same old thing? But sometimes the same old thing was all I had. Writing about it enabled me to make sense of the nonsensical. Plus, strangers had no expectations. They were patient. Even prodding. If they were bored, they were silent. If they rolled their eyes, I couldn't see. To me, the words adhered to the virtual page as new, and without consequence.
I knew nothing of search engines or keywords or that "A Bad Date with a Defense Attorney" would result in hundreds of hits and rampant advice about finding a new lawyer.
But apparently some folks actually read the post and commented about real-life Paul the Deviant DA, the perfect-on-paper Jewish lawyer who brought me an erotic novel on our second date because I'd said I liked to read. The people who chimed in on that post were keepers — unlike Mr. Shifty Shades.
My readers didn't feel like strangers. They were people who helped me forget about Bruce and divorce and moving back home. They were the ones who cheered me on when I wrote about blurting out "Mac" at the soccer field. Of course, I'd left out the part about making him up. I'd intended to be honest, but the truth slipped out of my fingers like Noah's green slime. And it was just as messy.
Rachel stepped closer to me. It wasn't my intention to hurt her feelings. My intention was to safeguard my own.
She twirled her fingers in her short brown curls. Rachel twirled her body when she was happy, her hair when she was not.
Excerpted from The Good Neighbor by Amy Sue Nathan. Copyright © 2015 Amy Nathan Gropper. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. The Banana Song,
2. Pick-Up Sticks,
3. Red Light, Green Light,
5. Baby in the Air,
6. Freeze Tag,
8. Miss Mary Mack,
9. Double Dutch,
11. Whisper Down the Lane,
13. I Spy,
14. Chinese Jump Rope,
15. Musical Chairs,
16. London Bridge,
20. Monkey in the Middle,
23. Duck, Duck, Goose,
25. Truth or Dare,
26. Mystery Date,
27. Olly Olly Oxen Free,
About the Author,
Also by Amy Sue Nathan,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I enjoyed this book so much that I read it in one evening. I loved how the friendships played off each other and reminded me of friends I had growing up. The whole book reminded me of how it was growing up, and how things have changed. How our children don't know what its like to have the neighbors to come banging on the door to come out and play anymore and looking outside at the phone lines...knowing that at one time your voice burned up those lines--yesteryear! I loved watching Iz find her footing and seeing her come into her own. This was the first book of Amy Sue Nathan's I have read but I am on my way to looking at the rest of them!
Made me remember friends from childhood and things you say and do back when.
I absolutely love this book! From the moment I met the main character Izzy Lane, I fell in love with her funny personality and was drawn into her heartfelt journey of motherhood, friendship, and love. Izzy is a writer, a blogger to be exact, and she is good at giving sage advice to others through her posts, but when she invents a boyfriend to blog about, her personal life collides with the fantasy love life she has created online. Set in Philadelphia, Amy Sue Nathan brings Izzy's charming neighborhood to life. The title, The Good Neighbor, is perfect, but you will have to read this novel yourself to find out why. This compelling story will make readers laugh, cry, and nod their heads as Izzy navigates the hilarious predicament she finds herself in. How she finds her way out, finally finding her true self, is the beautiful part of the book. In Izzy, we are inspired to better see ourselves. Like us, she is a little bit imperfect, a little big goofy, and still, her life is beautiful. The Good Neighbor is funny and wise.
This was a great little story about a recently divorced woman who ends up having to move back into the house she grew up in, next door to the woman who used to babysit her when she was a little girl. That's something that you rarely see these days. Most people have the big house for the kids and downsize when they become empty nesters. Anyway, the story was very entertaining and dealt with a lot of single mom issues that most single moms have. There was one huge issue that happened, an innocent to begin with one, but totally got blown all out of proportion before it came to light. This was definitely a light read, enjoyable, fun with a little surprise at the end. It held my interest and I liked the characters a lot. Well, except for the ex-husband, of course. Does that really have to be said though? HA! Thanks St. Martin's Press and Net Galley for providing me with this free e-galley in exchange for an honest review
The Good Neighbor by Amy Sue Nathan is a novel about how secrets can cause harm. Elizabeth “Izzy” Lane is thirty-nine and divorced. Her husband, Bruce Silverstein decided he needed to find himself (typical). Izzy and her son, Noah (five years old) have moved back into her family home. She has taken over the mortgage from her parents and they have moved to Margate. The day her husband left, Izzy started a blog called The Bizzy Blog (she did not want to use her real name). Izzy gives advice and tells stories about dating (Izzy is a school guidance counselor during the day). It has become very popular and now her friend, Jade wants Izzy to write for her Pop Philly site. Izzy would write Philly over 40 (even though she is only 39). Izzy agrees to write the column because she needs the money on the condition that she remain anonymous. Bruce has decided to go to California with his girlfriend, Amber. Bruce has lost his job and cannot continue his financial obligations to his son (he is a real gem). The one thing that Izzy fails to mention is that some of the information in her blog is fiction. She has been writing about dating Mac. Mac is a fictional boyfriend. Will Izzy be able to keep up her lie and who is she going to hurt in the process (you just know that this is not going to end well). I found this to be a mediocre novel. It is okay, but very silly and bland (like food with salt, pepper, and spices). The characters lack depth. The most interesting character is the elderly neighbor, Geraldine. I give The Good Neighbor 3 out of 5 stars (for okay). This novel was lacking in depth and humor. It could have been a funny novel, but it missed the mark. I received a complimentary copy of The Good Neighbor from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
What a wonderful read. When you have to find your way after a divorce and you move back into your parents home to get back on your feet. The have retired and moved and you have the house to yourself in your old neighborhood. The next door neighbor is someone you have known all your life and she is a wonderful lady and she lives by herself. She helps you with your son and you go over and keep her company. Her sons decide that she needs to move to a smaller place and are going to sell her place and you need to get on with your life. The neighborhood is changing. I love this book. I laughed, I cried and very much enjoyed this book
I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my fair and honest review. All thoughts are my own. In a world where social media is a big part of every day life, it is easy to create, pretend, fabricate.... not to hurt anyone, just to escape.....and that is what Izzy Lane did... In Izzy's opinion, she has come full circle. She did everything she was supposed to do. She went to college, got married, had a baby....now, she is living back in her childhood home where it all began. Divorce, child custody, child support, all the things Izzy didn't expect to be part of are now in her life. Her ex husband Bruce has moved on, he has a girlfriend, and his life seems to be moving forward. Izzy feels cheated, let down and insecure. Her life is all about her son, Noah, however, her jealousy leads her to "create" her own happiness, via her blog. Her blog is about her, a place where she can be and do whatever makes her happy. This works until Mac makes an appearance. Mac is wonderful, loving, caring, devoted, everything Izzy wants and needs in a man..... When Izzy's best friend Jade asks her to work for her social media website, Izzy is hesitant, she doesn't want to go public, she'd rather keep her secrets to herself. Only her neighbor, Mrs. Feldman knows Izzy's secret and her love and devotion to Izzy and Noah is why she insists Izzy tell the truth. Mrs. Feldman has her own secrets and her own story is one of honor, sadness, grief and love. As the story continues, you will laugh and cry, shout and cheer as all the characters come full circle in this amazing story. I was deeply touched by this story, it spoke in volumes of the way one little secret can snowball into something huge. You won't be disappointed if you read this book. I could not put it down. I had to keep reading, I had to find out what happened in the end. Hurry up, buy the book and get ready to lose yourself into Izzy's world, you will love it! I wish I could give this 10 stars, it's that good!
When her husband leaves their marriage Izzy heads for a safe place with her son – that place is the house she grew up in. Renting from her parents she continues with parenting Noah, her job as a guidance counsellor and spending time with her friends while she tries to accept that her dreams for the future won’t come true…at least not as she once expected them to. As the book blurb mentions…she creates a fictitious beau who is perfect and then blogs about him lying to her ex, her friends and the cyberworld. From there her life snowballs into a tangled web of secrets and lies in which she feels trapped. How will she - or will she not reveal the truth about Mac? Will she listen to wise advice or ignore it? Will her husband be a flake or man up eventually? Will she find a way to move forward or remain stuck in the comfort of what is familiar? There is resolution for her, of sorts, by the end of the book and in the telling of this portion of Izzy’s life we have glimpses of her childhood, family, friends, neighbors, marriage and also the possible future she may one day embrace. Words I wrote down while reading: secrets, lies, truth, friends, family, neighbors, trust, pain, healing… Quotations that grabbed me: “Secrets and lies change lives. And rarely in a good way.” “Secrets and lies don’t protect you they strip you bare.” This is a book that in some ways reminded me of a much tamer Sex in the City with a potential Mr. Big that might not fear commitment. Jade and Rachel are cousins so have been in one another’s lives for all of their lives and Jade came in when Izzy was in college and has been a bestie for at least 20 years. Each of the women has her own secrets but not all are gone into in depth - this is Izzy’s story. This is a story of change, growth, pain and healing. It made me think and though I have never been in Izzy’s shoes I could identify with her feelings. I believe it is a book that will appeal to women who have gone through a breakup or divorce or have a friend that has been there at some point in time. I liked this story…it didn’t grab me on the first page but I was definitely hooked before the end. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press/St. Martin’s Griffin for the copy of this book to read and review.